中国与世界,环境危机大家谈

china and the world discuss the environment

  • linkedin group
  • sini weibo
  • facebook
  • twitter
envelope

注册订阅每周免费邮件
Sign up for email updates


文章 Articles

Green growth in the Himalayas

Maryann Bird

Readinch

In the cold desert valleys of Ladakh, simple greenhouses provide fresh vegetables year round, writes Maryann Bird. For its innovative work in India, France’s GERES has won an Ashden Award for sustainability.

article image
 

When winter comes and the temperatures plummet to -25º Celsius in Ladakh, in the dry, remote eastern corner of Jammu and Kashmir, the price of vegetables triples. They triple, that is, if there are vegetables to be had – if airplanes and trucks can get them into India’s northernmost state. For six months of the year, snowfall largely cuts the sparsely populated region off from the rest of the world, and the people make do with stored root crops and dried leafy greens.

Here in the desert valleys of the western Indian Himalayas, above 3,000 metres, vegetables can be grown outside only during a short summer season. Ladakh’s high altitude and low rainfall mean that crops can be grown for only about 90 days and are reliant on water from melting glaciers. But what the region has in abundance – in addition to stunning scenery – is exceptional sunshine. For more than 300 days a year, the sun beams brightly in cloudless skies.

That sunshine now is being utilised in a pioneering renewable-energy project that helps villagers to grow fresh vegetables year-round in simple solar greenhouses. GERES, a French NGO, has been working with local organisations in Ladakh for more than 10 years to harness the sun’s potential. The result: local people are enjoying their own nutritious produce beyond the short summer season. Thanks to the scheme -- honoured recently with a prestigious 2009 Ashden Award for sustainable energy -- the villagers produce spinach, lettuce, onions, radishes, strawberries, coriander, garlic and more throughout the year. Eating a balanced diet has become much easier.

Vincent Stauffer, a solar-energy engineer and GERES’ country director for the Indian Himalayan region, explains the project’s success so far: “Our studies show that greenhouse owners eat eight times more vegetables than they did previously and their incomes have increased by around 30%. Their extended families, neighbours and other villages also benefit from buying and exchanging vegetables and flowers. This is leading to better nutrition and health benefits for over 50,000 people -- a quarter of the local population.”

In springtime, the greenhouses are used to raise seedlings, while in autumn they help to extend the growing season for tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes and other crops.

The buildings’ design is based on passive-solar concepts. The roughly 10-metre by five-metre structures are built from locally produced mud bricks, with straw- or sawdust-insulated walls. Back roofs are made from poplar and willow wood. Straw or water-resistant local grass is used for thatch to help minimise heat loss. Aligned on an east-west axis, the long south-facing side has a transparent cover made from heavy-duty polythene.

Inside, the west wall is painted white, to reflect the morning sunlight onto the crops, while the north and east sides are black, to improve heat absorption. Vents in the roof, side door and opposite wall help to control humidity and heating levels. To reduce heat loss overnight, a cover over the transparent south side increases insulation, raising the inner temperature by 5º Celsius.

Thanks to this cheap and relatively simple design, hundreds of greenhouses have been installed and some 300 tonnes of extra vegetables a year are produced in the Ladakh region, which shares a border with China to the north and east. Using mainly local materials and labour, the structures can be built after the outdoor growing season ends, when both workers and cash are available. (A larger design, nearly 30 metres long, has been developed for commercial purposes.) A family greenhouse costs about US$600, with owners providing some 75% of the cost and the balance coming from the GERES project.

The benefits to the local people are numerous. Not only do they have fresh fruit and vegetables year round -- improving their health and nutrition -- but they can enjoy a cash income from selling their excess produce. “Leafy vegetables are the easiest to grow,” says Stauffer. “You cut the leaf and it keeps growing. Turnips are less economical.” A two-hour bus journey to a market is well worth the trip, he notes, and a regular income has made a real difference in people’s lives.

Women, in particular, have been empowered by the greenhouse project. They usually are the growers of the food, bringing to their families the benefits of better nutrition as well as additional income from selling produce in local markets. Through that selling, they can become more independent and economically self-sufficient, and buy other foods and supplies. With an improved financial position, some families are able to afford to educate their children for the first time.

As Sonam Angmo, a local farmer with a GERES greenhouse, said: “I make about 8,000 rupees [US$170] a year from the greenhouse, selling fresh vegetables in the winter and seedlings in the spring. My daughter is 19 and studying in Jammu, and that extra money helps cover her costs. Everyone likes my vegetables, and in fact there’s such a demand for fresh food that we’re now planning on building a second greenhouse.”

According to GERES, the average greenhouse owner provides vegetables for nine other families and exchanges them with six more. In a region where people once ate vegetables perhaps twice a month, they now enjoy them a few times a week.

In the Ladakh region, which has limited opportunities for employment, the greenhouse project helps provide income in other ways. Local men have been trained in masonry, carpentry and other construction skills, while the few larger, commercial greenhouses offer some jobs. To keep the project running smoothly, local resource people visit the greenhouses frequently, supplying advice to their owners.

Traditionally, families in western India’s Himalayas have relied on agriculture (cereals and fruit trees) and livestock-rearing (meat, butter, wool) for their livelihoods. This isolated subsistence system is gradually evolving and being integrated into a local monetary economy. The passive-solar technology of the greenhouses also is being expanded to poultry and lambing sheds, further diversifying opportunities.

The environment, too, is a beneficiary. GERES says that avoiding air and truck deliveries of vegetables cuts carbon emissions by 460 tonnes a year, while composting improves soil fertility and reduces erosion in a dry and dusty region with little biomass.

In conjunction with NGOs, local government bodies or simply individuals, the GERES-led greenhouse project is being replicated elsewhere. Away from the high valleys of Ladakh -- and the Lahual and Spiti district in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh state -- greenhouses have sprung up in Tajikistan, China and Afghanistan. In the near future, GERES plans to expand them to other parts of the Hindu Kush, as well as to Kyrgyzstan’s central Pamir region.

The Ashden Awards were founded in 2001 to encourage the greater use of local sustainable energy to address climate change and alleviate poverty. In addition to the GERES project, the Aprovecho Research Center, based in the United States, and China’s Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer were honoured this year for their mass production of fuel-wood stoves for global distribution.

Other organisations receiving awards were Germany’s Solar Energy Foundation, for setting up the biggest solar-energy programme in Ethiopia; Saran Renewable Energy (SRE) in India, for a gasification system providing 11 hours of power daily; ECAMI in Nicaragua, for installing more than 400 kilowatt-peak (kWp) of solar photovoltaic systems for home and other uses; Kampala Jellitone Suppliers in Uganda, for producing non-char biomass briquettes made from agricultural waste; and International Development Enterprises India (IDEI) for a simple treadle pump that has lifted hundreds of thousands of farmers out of poverty.


Maryann Bird is associate editor of chinadialogue

Homepage image by Martin Wright/Ashden Awards

评论 comments

5

评论 comments

中文

EN

嗨 Hi Guest user

退出 Logout /


发表评论 Post a comment

评论通过管理员审核后翻译成中文或英文 最大字符 1200

Comments are translated into either Chinese or English after being moderated. Maximum characters 1200

排序 Sort By:

非常好的项目

这是一个非常好的项目,简单易行,而且能够实实在在地改善人们的生活质量。希望这个项目能够尽快推广到其他国家和地区,不过鉴于各地具体状况不同,推广过程中应注重结合当地实际情况灵活变通。希望这个项目能一直维持下去。

Wonderful project

This is a wonderful project. It is simple to execute as well as capable of truly improving the quality of life for people. I hope this project can spread to other countries and regions. However, considering every region has specific differences, one should be flexible and pragmatic, keeping local circumstances in mind while spreading the project. I hope this project will continue to exist. (Translated by Michelle Deeter)


一个问题

我也认为这是一项革命性的工程。但我想知道养护或者维修这些温室大棚的难度有多大?如果这些温室大棚坏了的话该怎么办?当地人知道如何修复它们么?
原评论由来自美国的水晶发表

此篇由刘雅晴翻译

A question

I also think this is a revolutionary project. But I wonder, how difficult is it to maintain the greenhouses? What happens if the greenhouse breaks? Can locals fix it?
-Crystal, US


回应1号

这个温室大棚项目针对的应该是光照充足的高寒山区,新鲜蔬菜对于改善当地人的饮食有很大的帮助。要在其他地方推广,需要具备相应的自然地理条件,更重要的是,还要有相关组织的技术推广和后期维护服务等。

Response for #1

This greenhouse project is designed for high altitude regions in the mountains, where it is cold and has plenty sunshine. The growth of fresh vegetables greatly helps improve the diet of local people. For other regions to roll out this project, there ought to be similarity in terms of natural and geological conditions. What is more important, there ought to be promotion of technology provided by relevant organizations and follow-up of maintenance service etc.

- This comment is translated by Jo


回复Crystal

温室大棚使用当地材料建造(泥、石料、本地木材);只有防紫外聚乙烯塑料要到最邻近的市场上购买。更多信息,请登陆solargreenhouse.org
Vincent Stauffer,温室项目主管。

Reply to Crystal

The greenhouse is based on local material (mud, stone, local wood); only the UV resistant polythene is purchased in the nearest district bazaar. For more information, see solargreenhouse.org
Vincent Stauffer, greenhouse project manager


很棒的项目

在中国北方冰天雪地的时候,市场上的蔬菜一方面来自南方的供给,很多也产自本地的大棚。如果在中国的高原地带也推广类似的项目,技术上不难,成本低廉,真的是造福于民的工程。但是在项目实施的过程,也希望种植蔬菜的人能够采取绿色种植,让购买的人吃上放心的蔬菜。生活绿色,人心绿色。

Excellent Project

When northern China is under a blanket of slow, a portion of its vegetables are indeed supplied from the south. But an even larger amount is grown locally in large greenhouses. If this kind of low-tech, low-cost project can be promoted in Chinese plateau region, it will no doubt be a great boon to the people there. It would be even better if the growers in these projects could use green cultivation methods, and provide safe vegetables to buyers. Live green, think green.

-The comment was translated by Echo Lee-


合作伙伴 Partners

项目 Projects